Face of terrorism: Osama Bin Laden's face has become as recognisable as Adolf Hitler's did during World War II
So the man who spooked the United States for ten years has been shot dead in his bedroom by American commandos, with President Obama personally the voyeur of the killing thanks to a camera in the helmet of a member of the assassination squad.
The deed took place in a foreign country, Pakistan, and — so it appears — without the knowledge or sanction of the Pakistani government. Presumably in the opinion of the Obama administration the due processes of law, whether international law or otherwise, do not apply to terrorists.
There can be no doubt that the morale of the global Al Qaeda franchise will be severely shaken by the loss of so charismatic a leader. Ever since the destruction of the World Trade Centre in September 2001, Osama Bin Laden had become the face of Islamic terrorism in a quite literal sense. His bearded visage under the turban, his misleadingly soft brown eyes and full lips, became as familiar to the world as the face of Adolf Hitler during World War II, and likewise the focus for the blind trust of followers and the hatred of enemies.
It may be that no man can replace Bin Laden as that inspirational face of leadership, either in the eyes of jihadists themselves or of Western politicians. What is harder to judge is whether his demise will decapitate Al Qaeda operationally.
For example, we cannot know if Bin Laden was actively involved in plotting and directing post 9/11 terrorist outrages such as the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005; or if, being by then a relentlessly hunted man, he had already delegated such operational leadership to men such as Anwar al-Awlaki, head of Al Qaeda in the Yemen and planner of the failed airline bombing on Christmas Day 2009.
If this is the case, Bin Laden’s assassination will have little impact on the Al Qaeda franchise’s current plans or its long-term strategies. It will be business as usual.
For ‘the West’, too, it will be business as usual, with neo-cons such as Liam Fox and Michael Gove (and perhaps William Hague) trumpeting on about a world-wide ideological struggle between ‘our values’ and militant Islamism.
The tragedy is that as long as they and their fellow ideologues continue in this way, the jihadists will simply carry on with their attacks on the West.
There is no-way of knowing if Bin Laden was involved in attacks such as 7/7 - or if he had already delegated planning to other members of his group - meaning his assassination could have little impact
Let us remember that George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their time were cleverly trapped by Bin Laden into the present ideological struggle by means of the destruction of the World Trade Centre.
How else could Bushite Washington react to this outrage except by instantly deciding to invade and occupy a Muslim country, Afghanistan, on the grounds that it was giving sanctuary to Al Quaeda’s training camps?
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Ten years on, the West remains trapped in a messy conflict in that country, while the training camps have simply been shifted next door to Pakistan — and now, it seems, to the Yemen as well.
Even those British pontificators who would seek to justify the Western occupation of Afghanistan — and indeed Iraq — admit that it has been the presence of Western troops (‘Crusaders’) on Muslim streets and in Muslim villages which has done so much to inflame jihadism here among our own indigenous Muslin population. This world-wide ideological conflict, bitter and at times violent, will be Bin Laden’s enduring legacy.
That legacy will continue for as long as the neo-cons in government and the media are willing to play Bin Laden’s game by raving on about the mortal threat posed by Islamist terrorism to our way of life.
But there is an alternative which would abort that legacy. First, the West should lower the emotional temperature of the conflict by turning off all the windy rhetoric about our values and the evils of terrorism.
Remember, it was Bush and Blair who first played Bin Laden’s game by raving on after 9/11 about a cosmic battle between right and wrong. Instead we should deal with Al Qaeda as a bread-and-butter security problem such as the IRA in the Seventies.
Invasion: Many experts are claiming that the increase in jihadism in Afghanistan and Iraq is due to the occupation of Western troops (or crusaders) on the country's streets
Business as usual: But neo-cons such as William Hague and Liam Fox continual trumpeting of 'good versus evil' could actual mean jidhadists will carrying on attacking the West
In the second place, we need to regain a sense of proportion with regard to Al Qaeda’s destructive powers. Even the most sensational of all Al Quaeda terrorist operations, the attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11, destroyed only two skyscrapers, not the whole of Manhattan, and even the loss of life — just under 3,000 — hardly compares with the 45,000 German civilians dead in three days in Hamburg in 1943 in the firestorms raised by RAF Bomber Command.
Then again, we have seen on television the crowds in New York in a state of hysterical exultation at Bin Laden’s death — just as though this were VE-Day come again. Has the U.S. just won a war? No, with a population of some 300 million, the richest nation in the world, with by far the most powerful armed forces, the U.S. was celebrating its triumph in a ten-year contest with a single individual who headed a small bunch of suicide bombers.
Atrocity: But did Bin Laden's attack on America on 9/11 cleverly trap Tony Blair and George W Bush into the current ideological struggle by forcing them to attack Afghanistan?
Regain a sense of proportion about terrorism then, and drop the ideological rhetoric. That would be a start. But even more important as a means to the security of the West would be a withdrawal of Western military forces from all Muslim lands, and a political decision to abandon what is called ‘liberal interventionism’ — inserting British servicemen into a foreign country in the hope of sorting out trouble between foreigners.
Having learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan, David Cameron’s neo-cons have now got us into another fine mess, in Libya.
For the truth is that whether Bin Laden is dead or not, as long as we in the West continue to intervene militarily and try to impose ‘our values’ in Muslim countries, we will serve only to inflame jihadist zeal around the world, and especially among the Muslim youth in Britain itself.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1383287/Osama-Bin-Laden-dead-Itll-business-usual-Al-Qaeda.html#ixzz1NUEWezQo